Monday, October 15, 2007

Grilled Prawn Noodle Salad (Bun Tom Nuong)

After a weekend of eating out, usually unhealthful food, I decided to detox by cooking Vietnamese food tonight. There was a new shipment of fresh wild caught prawns at the neighborhood grocery store, so I thought I'd make bun tom nuong, a Vietnamese grilled prawn noodle salad that's a meal in itself. This salad is usually garnished with crushed, toasted peanuts, but not being a fan of peanuts, I decided to substitute with pistachio. There were some raw, unsalted pistachios from Turkey in the fridge, so I decided to experiment a bit. Much to my surprise, the pistachios was the perfect complement to this simple dish. It added a wonderful nutty flavor with just the right crunch! :)


  • 12 jumbo prawns, shelled & deveined, leaving tails intact
  • 2 big garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 Persian lime, juiced
  • 2 big garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 bird’s eye chili peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 10 oz Vietnamese dried rice stick noodles
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small European seedless cucumber, peeled & julienned
  • 2 cups shredded Boston lettuce
  • 1 cup shredded spearmint leaves
  • ½ cup raw unsalted pistachios

Toss prawns in a bowl with garlic, olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a small pan and fry shallots until slightly golden. Remove shallots and set aside for garnish. Reserve this oil to toss with cooked noodles.

Soak rice sticks in hot water for 30 minutes. When ready, boil briefly until tender. Rinse with cold water, drain and toss with the shallot oil.

For the dressing, bring ½ cup of water to a boil and dissolve sugar into the boiling water. When sugar is dissolved completely, pour this simple syrup into a small bowl to cool. Once cool, add the lime juice, garlic, chili peppers and fish sauce and stir together.

Toast pistachios in a small pan and set aside to cool. Place in zip lock bag and crush with rolling pin or whatever you have in the kitchen.

Place grill pan over high heat and grill prawns for about a minute on each side until just cooked through.

In a big bowl or large plate, make a bed of noodles, lettuce, cucumber and mint leaves. Place grilled prawns on top and sprinkle with golden shallot crisps and toasted pistachios. Serve with dressing on the side for each person to toss his/her own salad.